The Timbers's first round pick in 2012, Jean-Baptiste was seen as a long term project when he arrived with the team. Considered raw but brimming with power and potential coming out of the MLS Combine, Jean-Baptiste still saw some action early in the season as a number of players ahead of him went down injured, handing him the starting role in the Timbers's season opener where he marked the occasion by scoring on his first appearance.
However, after starting three of the first five games of the season, and coming on as a substitute in one more, AJB was relegated back to the reserves. With the return to fitness of Eric Brunner, Futty Danso, David Horst, and Hanyer Mosquera, all of whom were ahead of him on the depth chart, AJB would not see the field again for the first team until the final game of the year where he got one last start, showing well against an Earthquakes team pressing eagerly for Chris Wondolowski to break the MLS season scoring record.
Jean-Baptiste played well in his few opportunities even if he did make some classic rookie mistakes with misplayed balls and occasionally poor positioning. What stood out in his performances was his strength, particularly in his matchups against some of the league's more physical forwards like Steven Lenhart, and his excellent recovery speed. With the physical tools in place and a Generation Adidas contract keeping him from counting against the salary cap, Jean-Baptiste is very close to being ready to start in Major League Soccer.
Should He Stay?
Caleb Porter is a coach who will get the most out of the Timbers' young players and in AJB he has a player with an extremely high ceiling. There is really no reason not to hang on to Jean-Baptiste for next year, particularly with Eric Brunner having moved on from the team.